Oxford Ashmolean Museum:
Main Attractions: Levels: Ground, 1, 2. For Level 3m (see: Ashmolean Museum Part 2).
Duration: 1/2 day. You can, easily, combine this 1/2 day visit with another route of 1/2 day - as described in our "Oxford Centre - Day 1" blog. Please allow, at least 3-4 hours for the Ashmolean Museum. I recommend at least half a day to fully enjoy it.
Weather: The best solution in Oxford for a rainy half-a-day.
Dining: There is a restaurant on the rooftop (third floor). NOT recommended. Pricey and small, innovative (but, not filling) portions. Nice views and excellent setting. DO NOT BELIEVE THE TRIPADVISOR REVIEWS ! Crayfish salad, Fennel, orange, white cabbage, chervil: £14.90. Pricey, nice to look at, not filling, cooked and served very nicely with a twist. I' had waited 20 minutes for my portion - though I was the only diner there (quite late at 15.30).
General: A fantastic museum with incredible collections and exceptional, temporary exhibitions. A wonderful way to spend a few hour. No charge to enter (but donations expected). A busy place with vastness of space - so, you'll never feel packed or noisy. Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean is Britain’s first public museum. The collections range from archaeology to the fine and decorative arts. Bears the comparison with the British Museum, but has the advantage of being less crowded: that makes the visit more pleasant.
Location: The Ashmolean Museum is located in the centre of Oxford. It is easily accessible by public transport. The bus station is approximately 5 minutes walk from the Museum. The train station is approximately 10 minutes walk from the Museum.
Access: There is disabled access throughout the Museum, with ramps into the building, lifts to all floors and wheelchairs are available.
Open: 10.00 – 17.00, TUE – SUN. FREE.
Photography: Allowed. No flash. Several displayed items are with restricted permission.
Toilets: There are public toilets (including wheelchair accessible) throughout the Museum.
Warning: Museum's staff members don't like you carrying rucksacks on your back. You have to carry them by your side or on your front. Better to use the cloakroom.
The Ashmolean Museum entrance - sculptures of Henry Moore. Three Piece Reclining Figure (1963) which is on temporary loan from the Henry Moore Foundation. The entrance is on Beaumont Street:
Reclining Figure by Henry Moore:
Ground Level - list of rooms/galleries: Aegean World - 20, Ancient Cyprus - 18, Ancient Egypt and Nubia - 22–27, Ancient Near East - 19, Cast Gallery - 14, China to AD 800 - 10, Chinese Paintings - 11, European Prehistory - 17, Greek and Roman Sculpture - 21, The Greek World - 16, Italy before Rome - 15, Rome - 13, India 2500 BC – AD 600 - Gallery 12.
The Ashmolean’s collection from ancient Egypt is among the most extensive in Britain, with objects from the Nile Valley from prehistory to the 7th century AD. Six galleries comprise the ancient Egyptian culture exhibition: 22 - Egypt at its Origins, 23 - Dynastic Egypt and Nubia, 24 -
Life After Death in Ancient Egypt, 25 - The Amarna Revolution, 26 - Egypt in the Age of Empires, 27 - Egypt Meets Greece and Rome.
Ancient Egypt - a limestone statue of King Khasekhem (2nd Dynasty, about 2700–2686 BC):
East wall of Shrine of King Taharqa (a Pharaoh of ancient Egypt of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty (between 712 and 770 BC) and king of the Kingdom of Kush), Kawa, Sudan, Late Period/Napatan, 25th Dynasty (about 690–664 BC):
This statue of Sobek was found at Amenemhat III's mortuary temple ( connected to this king's pyramid at Hawara in Faiyum), symbolizing this king's devotion to Sobek, which was an ancient Egyptian deity associated with Pharaonic power, fertility, and military prowess. Sobek is associated also with the Nile crocodile and is either represented in its form or as a human with a crocodile head. Sobek also served, additionally, as a protective deity against the dangers presented by the Nile river:
Granite statue of Amun in the form of a ram protecting King Taharqa, from the western wall of shrine of King Tharaqa. Several temples dedicated to Amun (a major Egyptian deity and Berber deity), including the one at Karnak were adorned with ram or ram-headed sphinx statues. The ram was one of the animals sacred to Amun:
Coffin of the 25th dynasty Theban Priest Djeddjehutyiuefankh, Deir el-Bahri, Western Thebes, 25 th Dynasty, 770-712 BC:
The Ashmolean’s collection of ancient Cyprus is among the most significant Cypriot collections worldwide outside Cyprus - a cultural crossroad between Orient and Occident. There are artifacts, displayed, from the earliest settlements of the island in about 10.000 BC until the Roman period, from the villages of the first farming communities of the Neolithic period to post-Medieval times. The vast majority of the objects are from about. 2000 – 300 BC. The Ashmolean's collection of ancient Greek pottery vessels is one of the finest in the world. In its range, size and scholarly importance it ranks in the United Kingdom behind only that of the British Museum. Ancient Cyprus is in Gallery 18. List of galleries of Ancient Greece: Gallery 6: Reading and Writing, Gallery 7: Money, Gallery 14: Cast gallery, Gallery 16 - The Greek World, Gallery 20: Aegean World, Gallery 21: Greek and Roman Sculpture.
Head of Man, Salamis:
Grave monument of deceased Archippus accompanied by two servants. This is probably from Smyrna from the 3rd to 2nd century BC:
The Ashmolean’s cast gallery is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved collections of casts of Greek and Roman sculpture in the UK. It contains some 900 plaster casts of statues, reliefs, and architectural sculptures.
Plaster cast slab of tomb enclosure showing detail of siege from Trysta, Lycia, 370 BC. It is decorated with friezes showing a wide variety of Greek myth. It is characteristic of Lycian architectural sculpture that, beside the myth, included scenes of near-contemporary military action (city-sieges) and of the monarch in his court (type of subject not seen in Greece proper):
Marble head of Homer, 1-100 AD, Gallery 16. Homer is thought to have been a travelling poet, following a long tradition of storytelling. All portraits of Homer were created long after his death. Artists typically
portray him as blind, so his opened eyes are quite unusual in this sculpture:
Head of Demostenes, 250 - 150 BC, Gallery 16. Found at Eski-Shehir, East Turkey (Anatolia):
In the second half of the nineteenth century, archaeologists began to focus on understanding prehistoric Greece and its extraordinary flowering during the Greek Bronze Age (about 3000–1050 B.C.). Heinrich Schliemann's discovery of wealthy tombs at Mycenae in 1876 brought to life the Heroic Age immortalized in the epic poetry of Homer, in which King Agamemnon’s palace was described as "rich in gold." Twenty-four years after Schliemann's find, the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans began excavations at Knossos, on the island of Crete, that would yield a vast complex of buildings belonging to a sophisticated prehistoric culture, which he dubbed Minoan after the legendary King Minos.
The Aegean prehistoric collections of the Ashmolean Museum are the largest outside Greece and come primarily from archaeological excavations. The Minoan collection, brought to Oxford by Sir Arthur Evans from his excavations of the “Palace of Minos” at Knossos on Crete - are the biggest outside Crete. When Arthur Evans was appointed Keeper of the Ashmolean in 1884, the Museum had a handful of Aegean objects: only one gem, which was not yet recognized as coming from the Aegean Bronze Age and a few obsidian blades from Melos. Following Evans’s purchases, donations and gifts to the Museum from his travels and researches, including his 1941 bequest, the Ashmolean today houses the largest and finest Aegean collection outside Greece, comprising more than 10,000 objects. There are three main areas in Gallery no. 20: the Early Cyclades, Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece. Each area is color-coded in an attempt to facilitate the visitor’s orientation: light blue is used as the background in the Early Cyclades, red is used for Minoan Crete, orange for Mycenaean Greece. The personality that dominates the Aegean gallery is that of Arthur Evans. The story of Evans is broken down into three major periods. The first period focuses on his work at the Ashmolean (1884-1908) and the Chester seal: a gem on which Evans first identified signs of a pre-alphabetic writing system. The second section of the Evans display is appropriately dedicated to his travels and explorations on Crete (1894-1899). The third part of this tablecase focuses on his Knossos excavations (1900-1935).
The Minoan displays in the new Aegean World gallery at the Ashmolean:
The Mycenaean Greece section of the new Aegean World gallery at the Ashmolean (on the right the Schliemann story and at the back the Mycenaean pottery and figurines display):
Evans was also acquainted with the famous German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, who excavated Hisarlik in modern Turkey, thought to be the site of the mythical Troy. Schliemann also excavated shaft graves at Mycenae, Greece in 1876. There he uncovered a gold death mask dubbed the Mask of Agamemnon. The original mask is exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. What you see in the Asmolean is a reproduction...
Death Mask of Agamemnon, Troy, 1400 -1090 BC, excavated by Heinrich Schlimann (1822 - 1890):
In 1900 Evans started excavating in Knossos. Within a few months they had uncovered a substantial portion of what he called the Palace of Minos. The term "palace" may be misleading; Knossos was an intricate collection of over 1000 interlocking rooms, some of which served as artisans' workrooms and food processing centres (e.g. wine presses). It served as a central storage point, and a religious and administrative centre. Evans found two palaces in fact, dated c.2000 and 1400BC. Each belonged to the Cretan Bronze Age which Evans called the Minoan style, after King Minos. Evans himself employed skilled artists who used their artistic imagination in recreating the vivid scenes (*). They were influenced by Evans' particular ideas concerning the symbolic significance of scenes and figures. Subsequent scholars have disputed these reconstructions and proposed quite different theories.
Relief figure "Priest-King", 1700 -1450 BC, most recognizable of Knossos frescoes, Palace of Minos at Knossos, excavated by Arthur Evans. Watercolour restoration probably by E. Gillieron (*). This fresco was located in the southern portion of the complex with the remains of the “procession” fresco. First, the “Priest-King” fresco (also called “Prince of the Lilies”) was interpreted by Evans as being a depiction of king Minos (Castleden 1990). Evans found this to be completely logical because it agreed with the ancient sources and his own preconceptions about the site (Castleden 1990). However, there are several problems with his conclusion.
Nimrud is the Aramaic name for the ancient Assyrian city originally known as Kalhu, located 30 kilometres south of the city of Mosul, and 5 kilometres south of the village of Selamiyah in the Nineveh plains in northern Mesopotamia. It was a major Assyrian city between approximately 1250 BC and 610 BC. The city is located in a strategic position 10 kilometres north of the point that the river Tigris meets its tributary the Great Zab. Archaeological excavations at the site began in 1845, and were conducted at intervals between then and 1879, and then from 1949 onwards. Many important pieces were discovered, with most being moved to museums in Iraq and abroad. Oxford's Ashmolean Museum has the second largest collection of Nimrud (Gallery 19), the Assyrian capital, objects in the UK, with roughly 330 artefacts. Among the collection are three relief panels from king Assurnasirpal II's Northwest Palace: an eagle-headed genie from Room B and a human-headed genie from Room I came to the museum in 1850 as a gift from Austen Henry Layard's excavation. A further fragment of a sacred tree from Room I was purchased in 1950 from Peterborough's City Museum and Art Gallery, which had acquired it from Lady Layard in 1900.
Assyrian relief, Nimrud, Iraq, Northwest Palace, 883-859 BC:
Assyrian winged genius from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal (883-859 BC) at Nimrud. Acquired through excavation by A.H. Layard in the early 19th Century. Now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford:
China 3000 BC-AD 800 - Room /gallery 10 : Up to about 3000 years ago objects found in graves were made mostly of hard stone and low-fired ceramic. For the next 1500 years the most important burial objects were made of bronze and later, of ceramics. The earliest examples of writing in China were recorded on animal bones and bronze vessels. Later, texts were written on stone, bamboo, silk and paper. Writing had become an art form.
Wine vessel with masks:
Chinese Painting - room/gallery 11:
Qi Baishi, Landscape with Blue Mountain (1953). Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper:
India to 600 AD - room/gallery 12:
Nandi, the bull of Shiva; basalt, Deccan or South India, 1500-1700:
Level 1: Asian Crossroads - 28, Eastern Art Paintings - 29, India from AD 600 - 32, Islamic Middle East - 31, Medieval Cyprus - 34, Mediterranean World - 30, Mughal India - 33.
India from AD 600 - room/gallery 32: Many of Hindu, Buddhist or Jain images in this gallery were once installed in temple or household shrines as objects of daily pray and meditation. They convey the serenity, compassion and supreme power or insight of deities and enlightened beings. Images like these remain in worship today throughout India. From AD 600 the form of the temple was developing, within India and beyond. Spectacular towers and giant walls teem are decorated with images of gods, men, animals and plants. Very diverse regional styles of sculpture soon developed throughout the Indian subcontinent. As in earlier times, professional artisans worked for landlords or rulers of different faiths, so that Hindu, Buddhist or Jain images may share a similar regional style.
Southeast Asia: As Indian merchants settled in many parts of southeast Asia, they brought with them the Buddhism and Hinduism. Local ruling dynasties both adopted these religions and their styles of temple architecture and sculpture. Astonishing temple complexes such as Borobudur in Java (AD 800) and Angkor in Cambodia (1150) were established.
Lintel with Kala face, Central Java, 800 - 900 AD:
From AD 600 onwards, many regional dynastie flourished across north and central India. They were patrons temples, gardens, estates and sculptural creations. The dominated religions were Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. This period of creativity lasted until around 1200 when Muslim invaders from Central Asia began to occupy northern India.
Vishnu Head - Khajurau, 950-1050 AD:
Ceiling boss with 8 flying warriors, South Rajastan, 750-850 AD:
Vishnu with 4 arms, Sagar Island, WEst Bengal, 1050 AD:
Portable shrine of Vishnu as Venkateshwara, painted and lacquered wood, Tirupati, Tamil-Nadu, 1800 AD:
Shiva and Parvati, Madya Pradesh, 1000-1050 AD:
Hanuman bearing Rama (in blue) and Lakshmana on his shoulder, Bombay, early 1900s:
Angada delievers Rama's to Ravana, Bombay, early 1900s. Note that Hanuman extended his tail - thus, seating higher than the king...:
Hinduism and Buddhism became established in Nepal from 300-850 AD. The Newar artists of the Kathmandu Valley showed outstanding skills in stone and bronze sculpture, reinterpreting Indian models in new styles which also influenced the art of Tibet.
Stone slab with yaksha, or nature spirit, in relief, Nepal, 700-800 AD:
Buddhism first reached Tibet, isolated by its high mountain ranges, around AD 650. In later periods it transformed Tibetan society, with large sections of the population living in monasteries. After 1200 AD, the art and teachings of Indian Buddhism were preserved and further developed in the monasteries of Tibet. This unbroken cultural tradition survived intact until and beyond the the 1950s - when Chinese rule was imposed on this famous, isolated region.
Photo of Martine Franck (wife of Henri Cartier-Bresson), 1996, Tibetan Geh and his tutor Tulku Tenzin Tosam Rinpoche, Dratsang Monastery, Karnataka, India:
Bodhgaya, Bihar, India is the holiest of Buddhist destinations and a World Heritage site. It is the most revered of all Buddhist sacred sites. It was here, under a pipal tree, that Siddhartha Gotama arrived there around 531 BC and attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. A simple shrine was built by the emperor Ashoka (3rd century BC) to mark the spot, later enclosed by a stone railing (1st century BC), part of which still remains. This shrine was replaced in the Kushan period (2nd cent. AD) by the present Mahabodhi temple, which was refurbished in the Pala-Sena period (750-1200 AD), heavily restored by Sir Alexander Cunningham in the second half of the 19th century, and finally restored by Myanmar (Burmese) Buddhists in 1882. The Bodhi tree behind the temple is believed to be a descendant of the original. At Bodhgaya, seated in deepest meditation ben
eath a fig tree, Buddha reached final Enlightenment or Buddhahood. Attaining perfect insight into the causes of universal suffering and rebirth, he conceived the way by which all beings may attain Nirvana or peace.
Votive Stupa, Bodhgaya, Bihar, 1000-1200 AD:
Buddha beneath the Bodhi tree, Bodhgaya, Bihar, 850-950 AD:
Islamic Middle East, Room/Gallery 31:
Part of Tile, Iran, 1800 - 1900, the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha. Based on the twelfth sura (chapter) of the Qur’an. In the Qur’anic version, Yusuf is a handsome slave in the service of an Egyptian man. His master’s wife, named Zulaikha in later literature, attempts to seduce him unsuccessfully. It, originally, derives from the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in the Old Testament. The left tile depicts Yusuf appearing before the women of Memphis. Overcome by his beauty, the women are faint or cut themselves with the knives they hold in their hands. Both pieces are from Iran, 1850-1900 and are Fritware, moulded, with under-glaze painting:
Tile with Qur'anic inscription:
The Byzantine Church, room/gallery 30:
Icon: Embrace of the Apostles Peter and Paul, painted by Angelos Akotantos of Crete (active: 1436 - 1450), oil on wood. Icon-painter and hagiographer who lived and worked at Heraklion, Crete, then part of the Republic of Venice. He was the first hagiographer to sign his name on his icons by writing in Greek: "Χειρ Αγγέλου" which, translated in English, means "By hand of Angelos":
The Mogul India, room/gallery 33: breath-taking Lady Impey’s Indian Bird Paintings ! This outstanding collection of paintings formed part of a great collection of natural history studies commissioned at Calcutta by Mary, Lady Impey, wife of the Chief Justice Sir Elijah Impey, between 1777 and 1782. The Impeys assembled an extensive aviary and menagerie at their Calcutta home. Lady Impey commissioned meticulous, life-sized pictures of Indian birds and animals from three Mughal-trained artists: Shaikh Zain ud-Din, Bhawani Das, and Ram Das. By the time the Impeys left India in 1783, these artists had produced over two hundred works on large sheets of imported English paper, mainly of birds though also of animals, fish and reptiles. The most prolific of these painters was Shaikh Zain ud-Din, and all but one of the works shown here are by him. The local Indian artists emulate, on a greatly enlarged scale, the refinement of 17th century Mughal natural history paintings. DO NOT MISS THIS COLLECTION OF MASTERPIECES !!!
Male Nukta or Comb Duck, Shaikh Zain-ud-Din, Calcuta, 1779, Gouache on paper:
Sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) on a custard apple branch, Shaikh Zain-ud-Din, Calcuta, 1777, Gouache on paper:
Black-necked Stork, Shaikh Zain-ud-Din:
A lady seeks shelter from the rains, India, Punjab Hills, C. 1820, Gouache on paper:
Krsna in the guise of Indra, advises Raja Mandhatr (from the Mahabharata), 1598, By Sadiq and manohar - Mughal, North India:
Krsna and Radha in two pavilions, India, 19th century:
Elegant Brass ewer with Dragon heads, 16th or 17th century, height 51 cm. A refined product of the Indo-Islamic style, with the spiral fluting of its body and its tall, tapering neck. It is also known as the Butler ewer. It was previously in the collection of Dr A.J. Butler, Bursar of Brasenose College:
Planetary deities, painted on soapatone (alabaster), Jaipur, Rajashan, 1880-1885. Maharaja of Jaipur craftsmen produced brightly painted soapstone (alabaster) images of Hindu and Jain deities in great numbers in the late nineteenth century:
China from 800 AD, room/gallery 38:
Visiting Stonehenge, Fang Zhaoling (1914–2006), Ink and Color on paper, 1994, a female painter with expressive calligraphic strokes. She lived and travelled in Europe and America, and attended both Hong Kong and Oxford Universities:
Seated Bodhisattva, fig tree wood, 1200-1300:
Ming and Qing Porcelain, figures from the novel Shuihu Zhuan (The Water margin), 1680-1720. During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) China began to engage in world trade. This included exporting porcelain to Portugal and Spain in exchange for silver. As the dynasty neared its end, imperial patronage of porcelain production ceased and Japan and The Netherlands were the biggest overseas markets, but after 1700 England became the greatest importer:
Blue-and-white porcelain tile with a landscape, Jingdezhen kilns, c. 1690:
Suit of Armour of a Samurai, 1700s, Gift of Prince Chichibu to Magdalen College in Oxford:
Bodhisattva Jizo, protector of children, travelers and women. Jizō is a Bodhisattva – enlightened being who devote his life to freeing others from suffering. Bodhisattvas are not worshipped, but inspire others to reach enlightenment. Jizō is shown as a monk with a shaven head and pilgrim’s robes. Jizō also carries the bright jewel of Buddhist truth, a symbol of the endless power of Buddhism. He has a third eye on his forehead and elongated ears, both symbols of enlightenment:
Vase with winter landscape, around 1910:
Second Level :
Room/gallery 35, West meets East:
Two Chairs, Japan, 1600s. Made for the Dutch settlement in Nagushki harbor:
Ottoman embroidered hanging, Turkey, 1550-1650, Cotton + silk. Tulips, pomegranates and elongated, serrated leaves are part of the Ottoman decorative repertoire and are found in ceramics as well as works on paper. Ottoman interiors were comfortably furnished with carpets and cushions. Woven and embroidered textiles of different kinds were used for bedding, fireplace covers, cushion covers and wall hangings. This large embroidered textile is made of three panels of white cotton embroidered with coloured silk threads. Embroidery enabled the craftsmen to create complex, multi-coloured patterns without having to weave them into the fabric:
Oxford - Ashmolean Museum - Second Floor - room/gallery 35 - Tapestry, The Battle of the Animals, 1723, France, Sold to Emperor Chien Lung, 1769, looted and returned to Europe in 1861:
Room/gallery 40 - European Ceramics:
Ornamental tile William de Morgan (1839-1917), most known pottery maker in England:
Room/gallery 41 - England 400-1600 AD.:
Statue of Henry VIII:
The Cuddesdon Bowl - of brilliant blue glass with fine trailed decoration, the bowl is probably Kentish, and was made about 600 AD. The bowl came to light during the building of a palace for the Bishop of Oxford, then William Wilberforce; it passed into his possession and was eventually sold with the contents of his house and lost from view. It was recognized by Miss Jocelyn Morris, curator at the Warwick Museum:
Room/gallery 39 - Music and Tapestry:
Violins and Violas, 16th and 17th centuries:
Violin, Antonio Stradivari (1644–1737), Cremona, Italy, with the original label 'Antonius Stradivarius Cremoensis/Faciebat Anno 1716'. Known as the Messiah, this is one of the most famous violins in the world.
Musical Party, tapestry, Spain, 1650:
From here we continue to Level 3M (free) and Level 3 (Special Exhibitions - with separate fee) in the Ashmolean Museum - turn to the "Oxford - Ashmolean Museum - Part 2" blog.
The THREE Pushkin Museums of Fine Arts: (Mузей изобразительных искусств им. А.С. Пушкина)
The museum is comprised of three distinct buildings. The original building, now exclusively presents the collections up to the end of the 19th Cent (Volkhonka street 12) - Old Masters, Ancient Egyptian art, plaster casts. The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts' building was designed by Roman Klein and Vladimir Shukhov and financed primarily by Yury Nechaev-Maltsov. Construction work began in 1898 and continued till 1912. Opening hours: TUE - SUN: 11.00 to 20.00, Ticket desk (entrance): 11.00 to 19.00, THU: 11.00 to 21.00, Ticket desk (entrance): 11.00 to 20.00. Closed - MON. Prices: 300 rub. – adults, 150 rub. – students, seniors, free – children under 16. A joint ticket*: Main building, 19th and 20th C. European and American Art: 550 rub. – adults,
300 rub. – students, seniors. *only permanent exposition (without exhibitions), valid 5 days since was bought, no exchange or return:
Take photo of the golden dome of the St. Saviour Cathedral from the Volkhonka street 12 building entrance stairs:
To its left as you face it is a separate building (light blue in color) (Volkhonka street 14) housing the Impressionism and Post Impressionism, Modernist and Cubist - up to the present day - 19C and 20C European and American Art section of the Pushkin State Museum (Volkhonka street 14). Opening hours TUE - SUN: 11 .00 to 20.00. Ticket desk (entrance): 11.00 to 19.00. THU: 11.00 to 21.00, Ticket desk (entrance): 11.00 to 20.00. Closed - MON. Prices: 300 rub. – adults, 150 rub. – students, seniors,
free – children under 16. A joint ticket*: Main building, 19th and 20th C. European and American Art: 550 rub. – adults, 300 rub. – students, seniors. *only permanent exposition (without exhibitions), valid 5 days since was bought, no exchange or return. Not too much difficulty here, though certain rooms, such as those displaying the Impressionists, can get a little crowded. Compared with the St Petersburg Hermitage - Russia's other great museum of the arts - it feels virtually deserted. If you want the place completely to yourself, winter is the quietest time to come; it's very cold in the streets but a very atmospheric time to be in Moscow. Sunday is the busiest day:
To its right stand a third building said to include art works from private collections (including the world’s largest collection of work by Alexander Rodchenko) (Volkhonka Street 10):
The frustration arises from the fact that all three seem to operate independently, and none seems to know what the others are doing. the museum has been divided to three separate expositions - so, you should pay three times to see all its treasures.
The "Pushkin" Museums have little to do with the famous poet; the name was simply changed to honor him during Pushkin Centennial "madness" in the mid 1930's. In 1932 it officially became known as the State Museum of Fine Art. The museum was finally (after a few changes of name in the Soviet era) renamed to honor the memory of Pushkin in 1937, the 100th anniversary of his death. The facility was founded by professor Ivan Tsvetaev (father of the poet Marina Tsvetaeva). Tsvetaev persuaded the millionaire and philanthropist Yuriy Nechaev-Maltsov and the fashionable architect Roman Klein of the urgent need to give Moscow a fine arts museum.
CLOSED (all three museums), Tuesdays - only the Private Collections wing.
Adults - 750 rub
Students, seniors & artists - 450 rub
Main Building, 19th and 20th Cent. Art
Adults - 550 rub
Students, seniors & artists - 300 rub.
Duration: 1 day. The place is so big and there is so much to see. In case you visit the THREE museums - please allow up to 2-3 hours per each of the museum's sites.
Photography: (with no flash) - allowed. No videos.
Nearest metro stations: Kropotkinskaya (Кропоткинская, м.) (Red line), 3 minutes walk, Borovitskaya (м. Боровицкая, м.), Lenin Library ( Библиотека им. Ленина).
The ceremony for the laying of the Museum's foundation stone took place on August 17, 1898 in the presence of Tsar Nicholas II and members of his family. The name of the museum – Alexander III Fine Arts Museum – was officially approved. Building work had commenced a month before that ceremony, which was important as by then the Committee for the Establishment of the Museum already had at its disposal a major part of its collections. The Museum was created on the basis of Moscow University's "Cabinet of Fine Arts and Antiquities" which had been set up as both a public museum and one for educational purposes. In it the main stages in the history of art from ancient times until the post-Renaissance era were represented through casts, models, painted copies and galvanocopies. This museum was the first of its kind in Russia. Work to create it had been initiated (1893) by the highly respected Professor Ivan Tsvetaev (1847-1943), who had a doctorate in Latin literature and art history and was later to be the Museum's first director (1911-1913). At the end of 1896 a competition to design the building for the Museum was announced and 19 architects from various cities in Russia took part. From among the entrants the University Board selected Moscow architect, Roman Klein (1858-1924), to build the Museum. It was constructed in keeping with the latest building techniques and principles of museum practice. The design was based on the model of a Classical temple on a high podium with an Ionic colonnade along its façade. The interior decoration combined elements drawn from the various historical periods represented by the exhibits.
Front left gallery with statues at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts:
Back side of the main Building:
Several highlights by rooms:
Copy of the Porch of the Caryatids from the Acropolis of Athens, at the Greek Courtyard (room 14) at the Ground Floor of the Main Building. Room 14. The Greek Courtyard is one of the largest and most beautiful galleries in the Museum, where casts of surviving statues and reliefs from the Parthenon (447-432 BC) are displayed, where there is a life-size model of the Caryatid porch of the Erechtheum, one of the porch of the Temple of Hephaistos above the Athens Agora (market-place) and also a model of the Athens Acropolis:
Statue of Athena at the Greek Courtyard at the Ground Floor of the Pushkin Museum Main Building:
Room 16. The Art of Ancient Greece: The high-point in the flowering of art and culture in Ancient Greece was the 5th century BC, the era of classical Greek art. A gallery which has come to be called the Olympian Gallery is dedicated to the art of this period. The most famous works of that era are represented by plaster casts:
Statue of King Arthur at the Italian Courtyard (room 15) at the Ground Floor of the Pushkin Museum Main Building. The architecture of this Gallery is a free re-creation of the inner courtyard of the Bargello Palace in Florence (which currently houses the city's sculpture museum). The Palazzo, built between 1260 and 1320, served for a time as the residence of the city's chief magistrate, the Podestà, which explains its other name: Palazzo del Podestà. Palaces of this kind, impressive in size, were reminiscent of church buildings as far as their scale and decoration were concerned: they asserted the prestige, wealth and power of Florence's new patrician class. The Palazzo had been erected at the very end of the Middle Ages and beginning of the Renaissance. Exhibits in this Gallery give visitors an idea of these two stages in European culture – copies of works by sculptors from Germany, France and Italy. The reproductions of masterpieces of European sculpture provide vivid illustrations of the evolution of styles and trends in the art of the 13th-16th centuries. Not only do the examples of medieval German sculpture in this Gallery not clash with the main display of Italian Renaissance sculpture but, on the contrary, they help us to understand the great changes which the era of the Renaissance brought with it:
The Art of Ancient Egypt:
The museum has over 6,000 items of Egyptian art, from the Predynastic (4th century BCE) to the Coptic era (4th-7th century). The collection includes examples of Fayum Mummy portraits (50 BCE-250 CE) - panel paintings which demonstrate a combination of ancient Egyptian and Hellenistic-Roman artistic traditions. These portraits were painted on wooden boards and attached to mummies. The majority were found in the necropolis of Faiyum, and were perfectly preserved by the dry Egyptian climate.
Cosmetic Spoon (end of the 15th century BCE) in the form of floating girl. The spoon is made from ivory and is modelled in the form of a nude elegant girl swimming with a lotus flower - Ground floor room 1:
Egyptian wooden Boat - Ground floor Room 1:
Egyptian Sarcophague - Ground floor Room 1:
Statue of Pharaoh Amemenhet (19th century BCE) - Ground floor room 1:
Figures of High Priest Amenhotep and Priestess Rannai (15th century BCE) - Ground floor room 1:
Assyric Winged lion from the castle of Ashurnasirpal II - Ground floor Room 2:
Part of Priam's Treasure - Ground floor Room 3:
Sarcophagus with figures of Bacchus, Ariadne and Hercules (c.210) - Ground floor room 4:
Stele depicting Two Warriors (370 BCE) - Ground floor room 5:
Fayum Portraits - Ground floor room 6:
The Picture Gallery:
European Paintings: 8th - 16th Century:
The museum owns a small collection of Byzantine Art, mainly icon paintings and mosaic art, as well as a collection of Renaissance paintings. Painters represented include Sienese painter Sassetta (c.1450), Umbrian School artist Perugino (1446/50-1523), Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Italian Mannerist Il Bronzino (1503-72) and Paolo Veronese (1528-88). Paintings from the Dutch Renaissance and German Renaissance (c.1400-1580) are also represented, including those by painter and woodcut print maker Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553). Paintings of particular note include -
• The Annunciation by Botticelli, tempera on panel (1490s)
See also Russian medieval painting, notably the celebrated Novgorod school of icon painting, and read about the three greatest painters: Theophanes the Greek (c.1340-1410), Andrei Rublev (c.1360-1430), and Dionysius (c.1440-1502).
Andrey Rublev, Russian icon of the Old Testament Trinity between 1408-25:
European Paintings: 17th - 18th Century:
This is one of the major groups of paintings in the museum's picture gallery. It includes works by most of the major movements (Baroque and Rococo) of the era, from Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Netherlands. Artists represented include painter, etcher and print maker Rembrandt (1606-69), Dutch landscapes painter Jacob van Ruisdael (1628-82), Flemish Baroque artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678); as well as vedute painters Canaletto (1697-1768) and Francesco Guardi (1712-93), Spanish painter Francisco Zurbaran (1598-1664), Bartolome Murillo (1617-82), Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) and Francois Boucher (1703-1770).
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba by Hans Vredeman de Vries, Ground floor Room 8:
Peter Paul Rubens, Bacchanal (Ground floor room 9):
Rembrandt, Portrait of an Old Man (1654) - Ground floor room 10:
Rembrandt (1660), Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther - Ground floor room 10:
Cornelis Corneliszoon van Haarlem, Allegory of Faith - Ground floor Room 11:
The Finding of Moses, Pietro Liberi (1614) - Ground floor room 17:
Francisco de Zurbarán, Madonna and Child, 1658 - Ground floor room 18:
Nicholas Poussin, The Continence of Scipio (1640) - Ground floor room 21:
Francois Boucher, "Hercules and Omphale" (1735) - Ground floor room 22:
19th and 20th European and American Art Museum:
The Gallery of Art from the Countries of Western Europe and America of the 19th and 20th centuries is a NEW Department within the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. It opened its doors to the public only in August 2006.
The building at 14, Volkhonka St. was previously the left wing of the residence of the Princes Golitsyn in the 17th-19th centuries, which had been built by the St. Petersburg architect, S.I.Chevakinskii, and the Moscow architect, I.P.Zherebtsov. This building was later lent features in the style of Early Classicism by the celebrated architect M.F.Kazakov. In 1890-1892 it was redesigned to provide rented accommodation and came to be known as "Princes Court". Great Russian artists Vasilii Surikov, Ilya Repin and Leonid Pasternak lived there for many years, as did the composer Alexander Scriabin. When this building was acquired by the Pushkin Museum, it was completely renovated between 1988 and 1993 in order to house the Department known as the Museum of Private Collections. This carried forward the traditions of the original building, where a picture gallery and Classical "rarities" from the collection of M.A.Golitsyn had been on display for the public. In this sense the Gallery of Art from the countries of Western Europe and America of the 19th and 20th centuries takes up the torch, since the history of the assembly of its collection is inextricably linked with the history of art collecting in Moscow and the names of such famous patrons of the arts as Sergei Tretyakov, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov. Twenty-six of the Museum's galleries contain a wide-ranging collection of works by masters of the 19th and 20th centuries. There are whole galleries devoted to individual trends in European art or to the work of a single artist. In a gallery specially set aside for the purpose there are works by the German school of the early-19th century, represented by Caspar David Friedrich and the "Nazarene" painters. Small galleries enable the public to appreciate, in a new light, well-known works by Eugène Delacroix and Ingres. The Spanish school is represented by Goya. A separate gallery has been set aside for members of the Paris salon dedicated to the work of J. Jerome, P. Delaroche and E.L.Izabe Works by French landscape painters Corot and the artists of the Barbizon school - Théodore Rousseau, Jules Dupré, Diaz de la Pena and Charles-François Daubigny seem almost predestined for the interiors of this Museum. Canvases by Gustave Courbet, Jean Millet and Honoré Daumier further enhance this panorama of French realist art. Pride of place in this gallery is assigned to the painting of French impressionists, post-impressionists and masters from the early-20th century: Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, members of the "Nabis" group, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, André Derain and Henri Rousseau.. In a new display it is possible to find works by representatives of other European schools as well and also works of American painters. Alongside canvases by Kandinsky, Chagall and Georgio de Chirico hang pictures by Achille Funi, Karl Hofer, Felice Casorati, H. Grundig, F. Beringer and Rockwell Kent. Works by major European sculptors are also on display – Barye, Rodin, Maillol, Bourdelle, Ossip Zadkine and Hans Arp. Whole rooms are devoted to a single movement in European art or the work of a single artist. There is a special room for the early 19th-century German school of painting represented by the works of Caspar David Friedrich and the Nazarenes. Smaller rooms enable visitors to take a new look at the well-known pictures of Eugene Delacroix and Jean-Dominique Ingres. The Spanish school is represented by Francisco de Goya. There is a special room for the Paris Salon painters Jean-Leon Gerome, Paul Delaroche and Eugene Louis Isabey. The works of the French landscape painters Camille Corot and members of the Barbizon School Theodore Rousseau, Jules Duprd, Diaz de la Pena and Charles Daubigny seem to have been specially intended for the Gallery's interiors. Canvases by Gustave Courbet, Jean-Franqois Millet and Honore Daumier complete the panorama of French realist art.
The first half of the 19th century was characterized by changing and developing artistic trends. This is reflected in the museum's collection. While classicism was still highly regarded, romanticism and realism were making an appearance. The great French Romantic Masters, Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) and artist/lithographer Theodore Gericault (1791-1824) are represented in the collection, as well as European landscape painting reformers John Constable (1776-1837) and Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875). There are also works by the Barbizon school as well as by realist artists such as Gustave Courbet (1819-77) and Jean-Francois Millet (1814-75), and the German Romantic landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). When the New Western Art museum was shut in 1948, its highly developed collection of French painting from the 19th/20th century was split between the Pushkin and the Hermitage museum. The Pushkin received paintings of rare artistic and historical value covering art movements such as Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Pointillism, Divisionism, Les Nabis and Primitivism. Artists in the collection include Claude Monet (1840-1926), Renoir (1841-1919), Degas (1834-1917), Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Alfred Sisley (1839-99), Cezanne (1839-1906), Van Gogh (1853-90), Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Maurice Denis (1870-1943), Matisse (1869-1954) and Picasso (1881-1973). Among the highlights of the collection is Van Gogh's The Red Vineyard (1888, Le Vigne Rouge/the red vineyard) which is reportedly the only painting sold by the artist in his lifetime.
Here are several highlights:
Floor 1 - rooms 8-17:
Eugène Delacroix, After the Shipwreck (1847) or Dead body of Don Juan thrown to the water (floor 1, room 8):
• Portrait of Mme Mariette Gambay (1869-70) - Camille Corot (room 9):
Claude Monet, Water-Lily Pond (1899) room 11:
• "Blue dancers" by Edgar Edgar Degas - room 11:
• Nude (1876) by August Renoir - room 11:
• Girls in the Beach by August Renoir - room 11:
• Water Lillies by Claude Monet - room 11.
• Camille Pissarro - Morning - room 11:
• Man Smoking a Pipe by Paul Cezanne - room 15:
• Pierrot and Harlequin (1888-90) / Mardi Gras" by Paul Cézanne (1888) - room 15:
• Pine Tree in St. Tropez by Paul Siognac - room 15:
Landscape of Carriage and Train - Van Gogh - room 15:
• Prisoners in Prison - Van Gogh - room 15:
• Flowers in France - Paul Gaugin - room 17:
• The King's Wife - Paul Gaugin - room 17:
• Still life with Parrots - Paul Gaugin - room 17:
• Paul Gauguin's "Do Not Work" (1896) - room 17:
Second Floor - rooms 18-26:
Bourdelle - Resting Sculpture - room 18:
Derain - Drying Sails - room 19:
Matisse - Still life in Venetian Red - 1908 - room 19:
Derain - Pine Trunks - room 21:
Derain - Saturday - room 21:
Rue Du Mont Cenis, Montmartre (1914-1916). Utrillo Maurice (1883-1955) room 21:
Picasso - The Meeting - room 22:
Picasso - Old Jew and a Son - room 22:
Picasso - Acrobat on a Ball - room 22:
Picasso - Woman with a Fan - room 22:
Emil Filla - The Architect - room 23:
Fernand Léger, 1881-1955 - Left: An Infant with a Flower, 1953;
Right: A Bird and a Flower, 1953 - room 23.
Marc Chagall- Artist and his Fiance' - room 24:
Marc Chagall- Night Scene - room 24:
Kandinsky - Blue over Multicolor - room 24:
Kandinsky, “Angular Structure,” (1930):
Wassily Kandinsky, Impression III. Concert (1911):
Renato Gottusso - Calabrian Worker's Sunday - room 24:
Andre Fougeron - Fishing - room 24:
Temporary exhibition (July 2015) - Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900) - Hungarian painter - Milton dictating the Lost Paradise to his Daughters:
Temporary exhibition - Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900) - Hungarian painter - Paris Interior:
Temporary exhibition - Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900) - Hungarian painter - The Candies Thief:
Prints and Drawings:
In 1924 the Graphic Arts department was added to the museum, founded with 20,000 prints which were donated from the Hermitage museum. Today, it contains about 400,000 drawings, illustrated books, engravings, posters, applied graphics and ex-libris prints from all over the world and all periods of art history. Among them are works from great masters including Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), Rembrandt, and creators of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints like Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Hiroshige (1797-1858).
Peter Paul Rubens, The effigy of the Virgin and Child borne by angels, ca. 1608:
Private Collections Building:
Between the late-16th century and the end of the 18th, the Church of St. John the Baptist had occupied this place. Later the plot was acquired by the godfather of Alexander Pushkin's brother Lev. In 1804 work had begun on the construction of a two-storeyed town house at the site. Prior to 1917 it had been the property of various aristocratic families. It had also contained the Society for Art and Literature founded in Moscow in 1888 by Konstantin Stanislavsky, Alexander Fedotov, Fyodor Komissarzhevskii and Fyodor Sologub. Between 1927 and 1932 it had housed the presidium of the Association for Artists of Revolutionary Russia. In 1934 the future of the building was again under threat in view of the construction of the Metro station "Palace of the Soviets" (now Kropotkinskaya station). The building was due for demolition on account of its worn foundations, yet, since the arrangements for re-housing the residents were not in place when the time came to build the underground tunnel, it was decided to leave the house intact. Meanwhile the old foundations were removed and replaced with new ones. In 1988 the building was made over to the Pushkin Museum and in 1990 work began on its reconstruction and restoration which took close on 15 years. In June 2005 the Department of Private Collections was moved to a new building at 8/10 Volkhonka St.
The ground floor of the new building houses collections of works dating from the 19th and ealy-20th century. This floor also contains works by outstanding Russian artists of the 20th century: Aleksandr. Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova, Aleksandr Tyshler, A. Weisberg and David Sterenberg in a hall specially designed for the display of individual donations. Four rooms on the first floor are taken up with the unique collection of Russian and foreign paintings and drawings which had belonged to the founder of the Museum – I.S.Zilbershtein.
Alexander Rodchenko, Self-portrait, (1920):
Varvara Stepanova, Self-portrait, (1920):
Aleksandr Rodchenko, Dance: An Objectless Composition (1915):
Tip 1: The Winter Palace - The State Rooms
Tip 2: The Small Hermitage: French Art , Art of the Western European Middle Ages, Dutch Art and the Pavilion Hall
Tip 3: The New Hermitage: Flemish, Dutch and German Art, The Twelve-Column Hall, The Knights' Hall, Italian Art
Tip 4: The New and Old Hermitage: Italian and Spanish Renaissance and Fine Art.
Tip 1 Main attractions: Rastrelli Staircase, The Great (Nicholas) Hall (Hall 191), The Concert Hall (room 190), Field Marshall Room (Room 193), The Malachite Room - Room 189, The Gambs Room - Room 185, The Library of Nicholas II - Room 178, The Boudoir - Room 306, The Gold Drawing Room - Room 304, The White Hall - Room 289, Room of French Art of the 18th Century - Room 287, Room of French Art of the 18th Century - Room 286, Alexander Hall - Room 282, The Picket Room - Room 196, The Armorial Hall - Room 195, The Peter the Great (Small Throne) Room - Room 194, The Field Marshall Room - Room 193, The War Gallery of 1812 - Room 197, The St. George (Large Throne) Hall - Room 198, The Great Church - Room 271,
Note: For the French paintings of the 19th–20th centuries which are on display in the General Staff Building - see another blog.
Opening Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: 10.30 - 18.00.
Wednesday, Friday: 10.30 - 21.00. Closed: Mondays, January 1 and May 9.
Metro: Admiralteyskaya, Nevsky Prospekt, Gostiny Dvor.
Buses: 7, 10, 24, 191.
Trolleys: 1, 7, 10, 11.
Entrance: from the Palace Square. Everyone appears to join an enormous queue. On-line tickets (see below) require that you swap your voucher for a ticket (approx.100-200 persons in that queue) and then another long queue to enter the Hermitage). SO, USE the AUTOMATIC MACHINES. There are a couple of self-service ticket machines in the courtyard before the main entrance. Enter the Palace Square, walk across past the monument towards the Winter Palace black iron gates. Enter Just through the arch, on the right as you enter the courtyard, there is a ticket machine. The instructions are in English and it costs 600 rubbles to buy a ticket. Join the short-time queue to the entrance and Voila ...
Online tickets: You can avoid a L-O-N-G line at the ticketing office at the museum by purchasing Hermitage tickets online. When you place an order with the Hermitage e-shop (https://www.hermitageshop.org/tickets/), you will receive a Ticket Voucher via email in 20 minutes. Just print it and handle it, with your ID (Passport) on entry day. There are two types of tickets and prices:
If you are going to purchase tickets in advance, I recommend you do it on the Russian website because the tickets are cheaper. If you do not understand Russian, it does not matter, you can just use an automatic translator in your web browser or you can open both versions (the Russian and English page) on two different screens in order to understand the Russian.
After you make your e-purchase you will be emailed a PDF voucher, which you must print out at home and present (along with a valid ID, like a passport) in a special kiosk just inside the museum courtyard (with the face inside - to the left). In return you’ll be given an admission ticket, and off you go, bypassing the line of people who, for whatever reason, would rather wait…and wait…and wait to get inside. You should print the voucher and present it on the day of your visit along with your ID !!!
Guided tours: guided tour ticket for one visitor in groups of maximum 25 people to the Main Museum Complex or the General Staff Building according to the tour schedule - 200 RUB. The tickets are purchased together with the entrance ticket upon arrival. Information about guided tours' hours is available daily at information stands at the main entrance.
Guided tour tickets can be purchased at museum ticket offices. Visitors from abroad can enjoy tours in European languages: English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Audio-guides for 350 Rub are available in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish as well. Please be aware, though, that it is not possible to buy tickets for neither the Gold nor the Diamond Treasure Rooms online (Floor 1). You are only allowed to visit these sections of the Museum on a scheduled guided tour.
Food and Smoking: There is only one café in the whole building. It is right in the middle on the ground floor. It is a good idea to plan your tour in a way that you will come back to this place for a lunch or tea time break. Better - bring some protein bars or heartier snacks along with you in your bag and find a place for rest and lunch. Quite difficult to find. If you are a smoker you might be in trouble. Smoking obviously is prohibited inside the building, but on top of that there are no easy ways out or smoking areas. So best prepare yourself for a day without food and without a smoke !
Photography: Flash photography or use of illumination devices are not allowed.
Luggage: Backpacks go in lockers but if you have a large handbag there is no problem.
Views from the museum's windows: the views from the windows are spectacular. There aren’t views like this anywhere else in the world.
When are the best times to visit The Hermitage: The best time to visit the museum is in winter and spring, when there are less people. Should you be visiting St. Petersburg mainly to see the collection of the Hermitage, I advise you to go in winter! The whole winter palace is well heated and there are not even half as many tourists there as in summer. Believe me! You don’t want to wait a quarter of an hour to see the Pavilion Hall or one of the two Da Vincis with elbows pushing into your ribs from both sides. And if you still want to come in summer, it’s better to do this in the middle of the day while tour groups are having lunch. The museum can barely hold the large amount of visitors that arrive during the summer. In fact, the tourist crowds in summer make it impossible for true art lovers to see the basic museum collections.
What not to see in the Hermitage Museum: this blog concentrates on the SECOND FLOOR only. Down in the first floor you will find a huge collection focused on ancient Greece and Egypt. Now if you’ve never seen an egyptian sarcophagus or a greek amphora you might want to consider checking this part of the collection. There are no true highlights to be found there like in the British Museum or the Pergamon in Berlin, or in the Louvre though. Most Hermitage museum guides do not really mention these at all. So better save those for another visit or another day. On the third floor there is some Art from Asia and Asia Minor. Probably the same can be said about these rooms: while interesting in itself there are other museums in the world that really specialized on these cultures. Rather save your time and head to the General Staff Building. You don’t want to miss that ! (see our blog on the GSB collections).
Introduction: There is no museum in the world that rivals the Hermitage in size and quality. Its collection is so large that it would take months to view its whole treasures. There are nearly three million works on exhibit (17,000 paintings and 600,000 graphic works, over 12,000 sculptures and 300,000 works of craft, 700,000 archeological and 1,000,000 numismatic findings). The museum itself, IS STUNNING, BREATH-TAKING with its fine interior decoration and architectural detail. The museum consists of five buildings located in the historical center on the Neva embankment (southern shore of the Neva). The Winter Palace that comprises the main collection of the state museum has 1,057 halls and rooms. As the Hermitage is so enormous, its collection so impressive and diverse, and its interior so attractive in its own right - many visitors prefer to make several briefer visits rather than one lengthy, hurried and exhausting one-day tour. Many visitors don't try to see the entire museum in one day. Instead, they concentrate on one section or specialty. To see all the art displayed you'd have to cover a distance of about 22 km. Another way is to explore the whole main complex on a high-speed reconnaissance tour for a 2-3 hours to get an overview of as much as you can see. Then go back later (on another day when you've recovered!) to concentrate on your favorite bits and see them properly. Even so, after several visits you will touch only the tip of the iceberg... The museum is also worth a visit for its sumptuous interior.
The Winter Palace in particular is magnificent, with its marvelous Jordan Staircase and dazzling splendor of the many state rooms.
As we said before, the State Hermitage consists of five linked buildings along the Palace Embankment (north) (or: riverside Dvortsovaya nab.). From west to east they are:
Winter Palace: This stunning mint-green, white and gold profusion of columns, windows and recesses, with its roof topped by rows of classical statues, was commissioned from Bartolomeo Rastrelli in 1754 by Empress Elizabeth. Catherine the Great and her successors had most of the interior remodelled in a classical style by 1837. It remained an imperial home until 1917, though the last two tsars spent more time in other palaces.
Small Hermitage: The classical Small Hermitage was built for Catherine the Great as a retreat that would also house the art collection started by Peter the Great, which she significantly expanded.
Old Hermitage: At the river end of the Little Hermitage is the Old Hermitage, which also dates from the time of Catherine the Great.
New Hermitage: Facing Millionnaya ul on the south end of the Old Hermitage, the New Hermitage was built for Nicholas II, to hold the still-growing art collection. The Old and New Hermitages are sometimes grouped together and labelled the Large Hermitage.
State Hermitage Theatre: Built in the 1780s by the classicist Giacomo Quarenghi, who thought it one of his finest works. Concerts and ballets are still performed here. In the same building but accessed from the Neva Embankment are the remains of the Winter Palace of Peter I.
The museum is especially strong in Italian Renaissance and French Impressionist paintings, as well as possessing outstanding collections of works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, Tician, Rubens, Rembrandt, Picasso (the main complex) , Renoir and Matisse (the General Staff Building). Visitors should also take advantage of its excellent Greek and Roman antiquities collection (mostly, copies) and its exhibits of Central Asian art. The museum also hosts a world's best collection of Holland Baroque, French paintings of 19th and 20th centuries, Western European decorative art collection and a unique Gold of the Scythes exhibition.
History: The Winter Palace was built in 1754-1762 by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. In 1764-75, at the order of Catherine the Great, Small Hermitage was erected by Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe and Yuri Felten. In 1771-87, Yuri Felten built the Great Hermitage. In 1783-87, based on Giacomo Quarenghi designs, the Hermitage theatre was built. The museum was damaged in an 1837 fire and reconstructed in the neoclassical style in the 19th cent. To complete the ensemble, in 1842-51 Leo von Klenze built the New Hermitage for the emperor museum. Nicholas I also greatly enriched it and opened the galleries to the public for the first time in 1852.
The origins of the Hermitage collections can be traced back to the private art collection of Peter the Great, who purchased numerous works during his travels abroad and later hung them in his residence. Catherine the Great expanded the collection considerably, and she and her successors built the Hermitage collection in large part with purchases of the private collections of the Western European aristocracy and monarchy. The collection of Catherine the Great began with the purchase of more than two hundred paintings from Berlin art merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. This collection consisted of a plethora of impressive works by artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, Raphael, Holbein, Tician, and several others. Historians say that during her lifetime Catherine the Great acquired 4,000 paintings by the old masters, 38,000 books, 10,000 engraved gems, 10,000 drawings, 16,000 coins and medals and a natural history collection filling two galleries. Catherine the Great aimed to enhance the international reputation of the Russian imperial court. At the same time, it was a display of power and wealth, sending an important political symbol to rival empires in Europe. By the time Nicholas II ascended the throne in 1894, he was heir to the greatest collection of art in Europe. Opened to the public in 1852, the museum contained only the imperial collections until 1917. After the Revolution of 1917, the museum was opened to the public, and its collection was further augmented by the addition of modern works taken from private collections. Today, the Hermitage has embarked on a major renovation effort. Its collection is in the process of being reorganized, and many of its works have for the first time become available for traveling exhibits outside of Russia. Today the collection on display is simply staggering and represents nearly every major epoch in the history of man, since Paleolithic times to the present day.
The Hermitage now has a permanent partnership with the Guggenheim in New York and maintains permanent show rooms in London (Somerset House), Las Vegas (Guggenheim-Hermitage Museum), and Amsterdam (Hermitage-Amsterdam Exhibition Complex). It has also received a substantial technology grant from IBM for a digital image studio and a new interactive website. The complex also continues to host a theatre (built 1783), an orchestra (1989), a music academy (1997), a center for education and Internet technology (1997), in addition to shops, cafes, and other services.
Future plans: The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has announced plans to open a new institution in Moscow called the Hermitage Modern Contemporary Museum. The space will display some of the museum’s iconic 20th-century works as well as contemporary art. Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture of Asymptote Architecture, noted for their interactive virtual version of the Guggenheim, have been selected to design the museum, a 15-story structure.
Getting in: High season: The biggest crowds of tourists gather in June and at the beginning of July for the legendary "White Nights". The Museum is closed on Mondays. If you come during high season, try to arrange the Hermitage visit for Wednesday afternoon and avoid the busiest day – Tuesday. There are less people during lunchtime and in the evenings (but keep in mind that you’ll need about 3-4 hours to see the most important Hermitage collections). Ticket offices close an hour earlier, than the museum itself. Low season: The best way to avoid waiting is to come either 10 minutes before opening time or after 15.00 - 16.00. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday are the least crowded days. Try to avoid Tuesday even during low season. During school holidays crowds grow significantly (end of December - first week or two of January). In winter there’s often a waiting line for the cloakroom so even with a ticket you’ll probably have to wait a little bit.
Hermitage Rastrelli Staircase is called, also, Jordan Staircase. During state receptions and functions the Jordan Staircase was a focal point for arriving guests. After entering the palace through the Ambassadors' entrance, in the central courtyard, they would pass through the colonnaded ground floor Jordan Hall before ascending the staircase to the state apartments. It was here that the imperial family watched the Epiphany ceremony of baptism in the Neva River, which celebrated Christ's baptism in the Jordan River. This grandiose staircase retainins the original 18th-century style. Only the supporting grey granite columns, were added in the mid 19th century. The staircase was badly damaged by a fire that ruined part of the palace in 1837. Nicholas I ordered Vasily Stasov, the architect in charge of reconstruction, to restore the staircase using Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli's original plans. The stair hall is decorated with alabaster statues (some of which were brought from Italy in Peter the Great's reign) of Wisdom and Justice by Mikhail Terebenev (1795-1866); Grandeur and Opulence by Alexander Ustinov (1796-1868); Fidelity and Equity by Ivan Leppe; and Mercury and Mars by Apollon Manyulov. The 18th-century ceiling painting by Gasparo Diziani depicting Mount Olympus visually enlarges the interior that is transfused with light, gleaming gold and mirrors.
The Jordan Staircase brings us up to the impressive rooms of state, where imperial receptions, official ceremonies, court festivities, and magnificent balls were held. This is a series of spectacular state rooms designed to overwhelm those entering - with the imperial glory and military might of the Russian Empire. We start with the rooms of the Neva Enfilade, which runs west from the Jordan Staircase. Several rooms have spectacular views across the river to the Strelka on Vasilevskiy Island. We continue with a series of rooms which display entitled Russian Palace Interiors of the 19th Century, which, also, feature recreations of the Winter Palace's more private rooms: for example: Nicholas II's Library Room and the charming, Russian Empire Music Room. At the southwest corner of the Winter Palace, a further cluster of rooms has been preserved, amongst them the incredibly magnificent Golden Drawing Room.
The Great (Nicholas) Hall (Hall 191) of the Winter Palace: This room is the first to hit in the Great Suite of State Rooms in the Winter Palace. Tt derives a special grandeur from its Corinthian columns. After Nicholas I's death in 1855 a formal portrait of him was installed here and the hall was given his name:
view to the Neva river from the Nicholas hall:
The Concert Hall (room 190) is on right side (adjoining) of the Nicholas Hall. Also created by the architect Vasily Stasov after the 1837 fire. Paired Corinthian columns support a cornice bearing statues of the ancient muses and the goddess Flora.
The Concert Room opens to the Room 189 - The Malachite Room. The Malachite Room, designed by Alexander Briullov, 1839, served as the state drawing-room of Empress Alexandra Fiodorovna, the wife of Tsar Nicholas I. On one of the walls is depicted an allegorical picture of Night, Day and Poetry by Antonio Vighi. There are also 19th-century works of decorative and applied art. During summer 1917 - this room was the main meeting point of the emerging Bolshevik government. The dominant color of this room - is deep green.
Music Room - Room 187:
Rossi Room - room 186:
The Gambs Room - Room 185 - "Exhibition: The Decoration of the Russian Interior in the 19th Century". Former Study room of Tsarina Alexandra Fiodorovna. The display is devoted to the work of the best-known furniture-maker in Russia in the early years of the 19th century - Heinrich Gambs (1765-1831). Gambs arrived to St Petersburg in the 1790s and founded a firm that produced mahogany furniture and flourished until the 1870s.
Drawing Room - room 184:
Pompian Dining room - Room 183:
Smoking Room - Room 179:
The Library of Nicholas II - Room 178: Created in 1894-95 by the architexct Alexander Krasovsky with extensive use of English Gothic motifs. The bookcases are placed along the walls and on the upper gallery, which is reached by a staircase. In the gallery, on the desk - there is a porcelain sculpture portrait of Nicholas II, the last Russian emperor.
Neo-classical Room - room 177:
Art- Nouveau room - Room 176:
Neo-Russian Room - room number is one of the three (173-175):
Room 172 - Goblins and Glass Artworks:
Personal items of Tsar Alexander II - Room 170:
Russian Culture - 2nd half of the 18th century - room 169:
Russian Culture - 1st half of the 18th century - A Cradle - room 167:
The Boudoir - Room 306: The Boudoir was part of the apartments of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, the wife of Alexander II. The posh room was designed in 1853 by the architect Herald Bosse. It is total Rococo- style room with deep crimson silk fabrics with metal threads, soft gilded furniture, heavy chandeliers reflected in the mirrors - all create a royal atmosphere and striking, intimate imperial feeling.
The Golden Drawing Room - Room 304: one more apartment of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, the wife of Alexander II. This room retains its original decoration. Here, the extensive room was designed and created, reconstructed following the fire of 1837, by the architect Alexander Briullov in 1838-41: stunning parquet floor, vaulted ceilling, marble or jasper columns, heavy gilt mouldings on the walls in a Byzantine style, multiple bas-reliefs, gilded doors, glass cabins, impressive marble fireplace and mosaic pictures:
We are, now, in the most south-west room - The White Hall - Room 289: Again, the White Hall, was, also, designed and created by Alexander Briullov for the wedding of the future Emperor Alexander II in 1841. The dominant color is different shades of white. Centered in the White Hall are figures of ancient Roman gods. On top of the Corinthian columns are figures symbolizing the arts. Displayed, in the hall, pictures of French painters from the second half of the 18th century: Hubert Robert, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and Jean-Louis Voille:
The White Hall - Room 289: view to the Palace Square:
Room of French Art of the 18th Century - Room 287: In the centre of the room is the famous sculpture of Voltaire that was commissioned by Catherine II (who exchanged letters with Voltaire for 16 years) and created by the sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon. Volataire is presented and dressed as a Greek philosopher. Other pictures, in the room, are: Still life by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, The Washerwoman (1735), Saying Grace (1740) by Jean-Baptiste Chardin.
Room 286 - Winter by the 8th-century French sculptor Etienne Maurice Falconet:
Marie-Anne Collot (French 1748-1821) made the sculpture of Voltaire - which stands also in Room 286. Collot made the bust of Voltaire around 1770 to Catherine's commission. The philosopher was well known in Russia, where his works on Russian history had been published even before Catherine's reign. When she took the throne in 1762, the Empress began a long correspondence with Voltaire that ended only with his death in 1778. To create the bust Collot used existing depictions of Voltaire:
Room 286: view to the Palace Square:
French Decorative Art - Room 283:
French Decorative Art - Alexander Hall - Room 282: the room is dedicated to Emperor Alexander I and commemorates the reign of Emperor Alexander I and the Napoleonic Wars - particularly, the French invasion to Russia (Patriotic War of 1812). Created by Alexander Briullov after the 1837 fire. The walls contain twenty-four medallions commemorating Russia's victory over the French, created by the sculptor Count Fyodor Tolstoy:
We move, now, to a series of state room - NORTHWARD.
The Picket Room - Room 196 : designed by Vasily Stasov in 1838 and intended for the changing of the internal palace guard. It was, in this, roo, where the lesser court staff members, accompanied by their wives - greeted the Tsar family. Reliefs with motifs of military equipment are placed between the pilasters. Paintings of the vaulted ceiling depict battle scenes of the Patriotic War of 1812 by Peter von Hess. The room also contains works by 16th- to 18th-century silversmiths of Augsburg and Nuremberg as part of the Hermitage's large collection of German silverware. You can see, here, personal belongings of Napoleaon and his rival - Marshall Kutuzov:
Battle of Viazma on 22 October 1812:
The Armorial Hall - Room 195: the Armorial Hall of the Winter Palace was intended for grand receptions. It was created by Vasily Stasov in the late 1830s. The entrances to the hall are flanked by sculptural groups of early Russian warriors. Attached to the shafts of their banners were little shields bearing the arms of the Russian provinces, which gave the hall its name.
The Peter the Great (Small Throne) Room - Room 194: created in 1833 by Auguste Montferrand and restored after the 1837 fire by Vasily Stasov. The room featuring crimson velvet wall panels embroidered with silver double-headed eagles and decorated with a plethora of gilt. The room commemorates Peter the Great. its decoration features the Emperor's monogram (two Latin letters P), double-headed eagles and crowns. In a niche that is designed like a triumphal arch is a painting of Peter-the-great accompanied by the allegorical figure of Glory (Minerva) (by Jacopo Amigoni). Above the throne we note the painting of hovering cupid ready to place a crown upon Peter's royal head. Set into the upper parts of the walls are paintings (by Pietro Scotti and Barnaba Medici) depicting Peter in major battles of the Northern War. The throne was made in St Petersburg in the late 18th century. The room also contains two large battle scenes from Peter's victorious northern war against Sweden (Battle of Poltava and the Battle of Lesnaya by Pietro Scotti (1768-1837) and Barnabas Medici). In this room - the foreign delegates greeted the Tsar for the upcoming new year:
The next hall northward (turning to the left at the top of the Rastrelli staircase) we reach the Field Marshall Room - Room 193. Placed on the walls between the pilasters are portraits of Russian filedmarshals - in honor of Russia's military leaders. Hence the name of the room. The room contains full-length portraits of Russian Field Marshals - most notably (from left to right) Kutuzov, Suvorov and Potemkin. Further motifs of military glory embellish the massive gilded bronze chandeliers and the paintings on the ceiling:
Portrait of Suvorov:
Prince Mikhail Kutuzov of Smolensk:
RETURN TO ROOM 195 and move eastward to The War Gallery of 1812 - Room 197: Gallery dedicated to the victory of Russian arms over Napoleon. It was built by Karl Rossi and unveiled on the anniversary of the exile of Napoleon in Russia, 25 December 1826. Placed on its walls painted portraits by George Dawe 332 generals – members of the war in 1812 and foreign campaigns of 1813-1814:
The gallery has a portrait of Emperor Alexander I and King of Prussia, Frederick III of F. Kruger:
a portrait of Emperor Franz I of Austria by P. Kraft:
Room 197 opens eastward to The St. George (Large Throne) Hall - Room 198: Created in the early 1840s by Vasily Stasov who followed the compositional approach of his predecessor, Giacomo Quarenghi. The grand decor of the hall accords with its function as the setting for official ceremonies and receptions. The columned hall with two tiers of windows is finished with Carrara marble. The great imperial throne was made in London to a commission from Empress Anna Ioannovna (by Nicholas Clausen, 1731-32). The hall has a magnificent parquet floor made from 16 varieties of wood:
Return (westward) to room 197 and continue southward to room 270. from there continue to The Great Church - Room 271: this room belonged to the suite of rooms in the Old (Large) Hermitage in the mid-19th century. The interior décor has not survived. During restoration in 2003 the walls were painted the colour of the cloth that used to cover/decorate the room. The majority of the works in this room were painted by Veronese (1528-1588) the greatest artist of the Venetian school :
Here, we finalize our visit in the Hermitage state rooms. There are more state room like the Pavilion Hall (room 204) - but, they are included in our following tips in this blog. Now, skip to Tip 2.